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Tim Hyland

The Big Ten's Big Mistake: 'Legends & Leaders'

By December 13, 2010

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Sometimes, really smart people make really not-so-smart decisions.

And Jim Delany, the super-smart commissioner of the Big Ten conference, has just offered us more proof of exactly that.

On Monday, Delany made the much-anticipated announcement of his league's new division names--division names made necessary, of course, by the pending addition of Nebraska for the 2011 football season. The names were announced with much fanfare (on the Big Ten Network, of course). But just as pretty much everyone in College Football Nation praised the addition of Nebraska as a stroke of genius on the part of Delany, so, too, is there consensus that these new division names--the "Legends" division and the "Leaders" division--are utterly ridiculous.

Consider Yours Truly to be part of that consensus.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, Delany said the division names were chosen to "honor our history and traditions, reflect our core values and characteristics, and tell our story."

"'Legends' is a nod to our history and to the people associated with our schools who are widely recognized as legends--student-athletes, coaches, alumni and faculty," Delany said. "'Leaders' looks to the future as we remain committed to fostering leaders, the student-athletes who are encouraged to lead in their own way for the rest of their lives, in their families, in their communities and in their chosen professions."

This all sounds wonderful. It's a nice little story. And I'm sure the folks who came up with this stuff really believed in the whole idea behind "Legends" and "Leaders."

But the reality is this: "Legends" and "Leaders" are really, really stupid names for football divisions. I mean, after all, these are football divisions we're talking about. Not social clubs.

While strictly geographical division names may not have worked here (the divisions were not created along geographical lines, after all) there were some obvious (better) options on the table: "Lakes" and "Plains;" "Black" and "Blue;" or even the much-talked about, very controversial "Woody" and "Bo." True, those last options, honoring the league's two most well-known coaching legends, would have likely annoyed everyone not associated with Ohio State or Michigan, but at least they would have made sense. At least they would have had some connection to, you know, the Big Ten.

"Legends" and "Leaders," by comparison, just seem empty. Sterile. Pointless. Lame.

I don't know. It just seems as though Delany and the Big Ten overreached here. Tried to be a little bit too cute. Tried to please everybody--and in the end, pleased almost nobody. Even the league's bland new logo (pictured) is drawing heavy criticism.

The day wasn't a complete failure for Delany, however. While the logo was a flop, and while the division names were disastrous, the league's decision to name its trophies after some its football legends was a stroke of genius. And I mean that: A real stroke of genius.

Starting next season, the Big Ten football champion will take home the "Stagg-Paterno Championship Trophy" (very, very cool). The title game's top performer will be named the "Grange-Griffin Championship Game MVP." And the conference coach of the year will claim the "Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year Trophy." There are 15 other named trophies, too. A complete list of which can be found here.

The bottom line about the Big Ten's big day?

Delany and gang got the trophies right.

And everything else wrong.

(Image Credit: Big Ten Conference)


January 5, 2011 at 4:50 pm
(1) Joel Wagner says:

“Legends and Leaders” is awful, as is the new Big Ten logo. Who made these ridiculous choices, and what was the process? Over the New Year’s holiday weekend I talked to about 15 IU alumni, and every one of them hated these choices. Did they even bother to test market these ideas to see what alumni think? If they had, I doubt they would ever have seen the light of day. This is an embarrassment.

An IU alum.

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